Rolf Potts is the author of two books, Vagabonding and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There. He has reported from more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, The New Yorker, Slate.com, the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Believer, National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel.
His adventures have taken him across six continents, and include piloting a fishing boat 900 miles down the Laotian Mekong, hitchhiking across Eastern Europe, traversing Israel on foot, bicycling across Burma, driving a Land Rover across South America, and traveling around the world for six weeks with no luggage or bags of any kind.
~Walt Whitman The Song of the Open Road
1. Throw off Societal Constraints
Today, especially in Western culture, we are indoctrinated from birth with a long and painful list of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’. We all “should” go to college, get good grades, get a job, and then work for forty years before we allow ourselves to travel and explore. We all “must” live life for the weekends and do a corporate job with a steady paycheck. Or else….
Or else what?
If you want to live a rich, interesting, and fulfilling life, then you need to reexamine many of the constraints that society has put upon you and your dreams. If you want to travel do it. If you want to start a business, then do it.
If you want to work a corporate job and get the white picket fence life, there is no shame in that. IF that is truly what you want. But if you are putting off your dreams and desires because you don’t think friends, family, or society would approve, then it’s time to wake up and realize that you only get one shot at this life. You need to live it to the fullest.
2. Pause, Search and Receive
That said, do not throw away the wisdom of the generations that came before you. Just because they came from a different time with different technological capabilities and lifestyle opportunities does not mean that you should ignore advice from those more seasoned than you.
Before you act, pause. Think about what you are doing and the ramifications from a realistic standpoint. Then search. Search for the best way that you can proceed and and develop a plan of action. And finally receive. Receive the advice, criticisms, and input from others and filter through and apply it accordingly.
3. Travel is Much Easier, Cheaper, and Safer than You Think
Many people believe that travel is too difficult, expensive, or dangerous. But the simple fact is, if you do it right, there has never been a time in human history where travel was easier, cheaper, or safer.
You can fly across the world for less than $1,000. If you have savings or some form of location independent income, you can live like a king in many other countries for pennies on the dollar. And if you keep your head on you and use common sense, most of the dangers can be avoided by living like a local and staying far away from the touristy areas.
5. Time is Your Most Important Currency
You can always earn more money, but your time is an ever draining and finite resource with an unknown limit. You could die today, tomorrow, or 20 years from now and you have no way of knowing.
People treat time like it is a cheap commodity instead of a precious resource. You will never get a single second of your life back, it is time to start living accordingly. Go after the things you want, take the year long trip of self discovery, talk to the girl, forgive the person that hurt you.
Stop acting like you will live forever, because the tragic truth is this. You won’t. No one will.
4. Minimalism Makes Life Easier
Getting rid of your crap opens up your schedule and your life to new and incredible opportunities that are otherwise unavailable when you are constantly caught up in and worried about all of your “stuff.” While this might be hard to understand, especially if you come from a hyper-materialistic society, minimalizing your life can be one of the best things you can do.
Sell or donate the things you don’t use and see what sort of adventures you get into when you can keep all of your possessions in one suitcase. Or better yet, do what Rolf did and travel without a suitcase!